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Research Projects

 

"CIRCUMSTANTIAL LIBERALS"

This project considers how ethnic politics inform the shaping of ideological preferences, how these preferences are collected into competing programs, and taken up by specific political representatives or parties. It studies how ethnic politics shape the formation of different ideological poles, and how the juxtaposition of these poles shapes the space of political competition.

The project highlights the often constructive influences of ethnic group identity in the formation of political preferences and behavior. The presence of politically significant ethnic minorities necessitates public engagement with issues of minority status and rights, and this engagement forms the polity as a whole. The presence of politically weighty ethnic minorities able to organize and push for their interests induces – under particular circumstances – the formation of a political pole seeking the development and preservation of political rights and liberties. In short, the presence of significant ethnic minority representation has the potential of focusing political competition on questions of rights and liberties.

This project develops my earlier work on eastern European party competition:

Communism, Federalism and Ethnic Minorities. 2014. World Politics.

 

 


Papers in Progress


Dealignment Meets Cleavage Theory

(with David Attewell, Liesbet Hooghe and Gary Marks)

The rise of a new divide on immigration and Europe raises fundamental questions about the character of party competition and the causal bases of voting. In this paper we suggest that those who support political parties established on the new divide—green and radical-Tan parties—have more structured partisan preferences than supporters of mainstream political parties. While the divide between mainstream political parties has softened with the decline of the class cleavage, that between green and radical-Tan parties is sharp, ideologically rooted, and socially structured. We consequently argue that a new political cleavage dividing those who support and those who oppose transnationalism has arisen.  Among the implications of this neo-cleavage theory are: that the dynamism in party systems arises from exogenous social change; that change comes chiefly in the form of new political parties; that the decline of traditional cleavages does not invalidate cleavage theory; and that de-alignment is valid only for the period beginning with the decline of traditional cleavages in the 1970s to the rise of a transnational cleavage in the early 2000s.

 

 

Fuzzy or Veering? Party Positioning, Voter Congruence, and Electoral Support for Radical Right Parties in Western Europe

(with Jonathan Polk)

Do radical right parties present blurry economic stances, or have they clarified their positions while moving towards the economic left? This paper questions the strategic behavior of radical right parties in western Europe. We show that although expert placements of this party family on the economic dimension have become decidedly more centrist over time, the uncertainty surrounding these placements continues to be higher for the radical right than any other party family in Europe. We then move on to examine to what extent voter-party congruence on redistribution, immigration, and other issues of social lifestyle predict an individual's propensity to vote for the radical right compared to other parties. Although redistribution is the component of economic policy where the radical right has most substantially moved to the centre, our findings indicate that it remains party-voter congruence on immigration that drives support for radical right parties, while congruence levels for redistribution has insignificant effect. The paper concludes that while radical right parties seem to have included some clearly left-leaning economic proposals, which shifted the general expert views of these parties to the economic center, their overall economic profiles remain as blurry as ever.

 

 

Issue Dimensions in Public Opinion: A Research Note

(with Gary Marks) 

The dimensional construction of political space is fundamental to the science of politics. Yet how many dimensions best describe public opinion is contested. This article suggests that issue selection is decisive for dimensional estimation. Because the major surveys of public opinion in contemporary democracies select different issues at contrasting levels of abstraction they produce widely divergent estimates of dimensionality. Consequently, this paper argues that the analyst must select the issues which produce dimensions, and that this choice—and the resulting dimensions—are useful or not in relation to the researcher’s purpose. The implications of this for dimensional simplification are decisive, for the structure one detects in public opinion depends not only on the substantive topics at hand, but also on their generality.